Great East Japan Earthquake: Making Delicious Lunch Boxes for Sale with a Smile - The Endeavor of Centers for Persons with Disabilities -

In cooperation with Accenture Japan Ltd, a consulting firm, AAR Japan has been supporting welfare centers for persons with disabilities, affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake, for the purpose of improving their profit from sales. Here is a report on “making and selling a popular lunch”.

Ms. HAMAUCHI (left), who is teaching CAFE Sweet hot staff members, says, “It’s very important to measure seasonings accurately, so that you can always provide the same taste.”  (Fukushima Prefecture, July 31st, 2014)

Aim to increase the average monthly income of 12,000 yen 

Welfare centers have been assisting persons with disabilities with the aim of improving their opportunities for employment by providing practice in a wide variety of professions, including making and selling products. Before the earthquake, their average monthly salary was 12,000 yen. However, this amount has been getting even lower since the earthquake because their workplaces were also damaged.

In an effort to support wage increase through product development, AAR Japan invited a popular chef, Ms. Chinami HAMAUCHI as the instructor, and held cooking classes for welfare centers for persons with disabilities, which engage in production and sales of lunch boxes. During January and February in 2014, the cooking classes were held in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima Prefectures. A total of 63 participants from 34 centers attended and learned directly from Ms. HAMAUCHI. They were all very impressed by her professional cooking skills.

“25 box” (Niko box) is being prepared with warm hearts by CAFE Sweet hot staff . 

Finally, the lunch boxes are ready. Now, this is a real start!

From April, three centers, “Machie no Tabedokoro Fuku Warashi, San no Maru Himawari” (Iwate), “Pokke no Mori, Pokke Communication Networking” (Miyagi), and CAFE Sweet hot, Hot Fukushi Kinenn Kai (Fukushima) started an initiative to commercialize lunch boxes with Ms. HAMAUCHI.  

All participants at each center worked hard, though they had some difficulties measuring precise amount of salt and other ingredients. At the end of July, they finally got approval from Ms. HAMAUCHI, and were able to start selling their products. Ms. HAMAUCHI sent hearty congratulations to each center, saying, “Your smile will make your cooking delicious. Please be confident. You have only just begun”.

Feedback session with Ms. HAMAUCHI (left front side) after food tasting at Pokke no Mori (First on the left, Ayana KISHIDA, AAR Japan Sendai Office) 

“25box” prepared by CAFE Sweet hot (Fukushima). Tomato rice with mixed grains, fried rolled pork with apple sauce, and vegetable ratatouille. As indicated in the name, 25 ingredients are used to make the lunchbox.
“Fuku Fuku Lunch” prepared by Machie no Tabedokoero, Fuku Warashi (Iwate). Two items, roasted dried kelp and carrot with rice bran flavor, and spinach and turnips with peanut sauce, have been newly added to their existing fried chicken lunch box. The nutritional balance has been enhanced by these additions. 

“Happy Deli” prepared by Pokke no Mori (Miyagi Prefecture) with Ms. HAMAUCHI.  Local ingredients are used.
At Pokke no Mori, Ms. HAMAUCHI (at the back in the photo) said, “Your heart adds to your cooking flavors. Never forget your smile like the one you have now.”  

What we gained from the lunch box lessons 

Ms. Ayumi ABE, Service Administration Chief, Machie no Tanedokoro Fukuwarashi
Not only our staff, but also all of the participants from the centers were so happy to learn directly from Ms. HAMAUCHI. We’ve learned the principles of delicious food and cooking. We’ll be able to utilize this in our cooking.

Ms. Kou HOSHINO, Corporate Administrative Section, Pokke no Mori
“During the earthquake, our equipment warehouse was swept away by tsunami waters. It often made me think we would never be able to make lunch boxes again. However, both our kitchen equipment and staff miraculously survived and we can still go on. We aim to increase our sales of lunchboxes prepared using Ms. HAMAUCHI’s recipes, and pay more to our staff.”

(Ms. Chinami HAMAUCHI, front row center, with participants from Machie no Tabedokoro Fuku Warashi)  “We were so excited that Ms. HAMAUCHI was our teacher. (First on the right: Akiko KATO, AAR Japan Tohoku Office Director; Second from right: Takeji ASANO, AAR Japan. Second from left, back row: Ayana KISHIDA, July 30th, 2014)  
Sanae Okabe, Director, CAFE Sweet hot
I lost a lot in the earthquake, but on the other hand, I’ve been able to meet many people whom I otherwise wouldn’t have. Ms. HAMAUCHI is one of them. She was so friendly that our staff and users were always eager to learn more from her. We want many people to know that there is a center where people are helping to keep chins and spirits up, here in Fukushima. 
AAR Japan will continue to assist activities to improve wages for persons with disabilities.

RieYAMANE, Tokyo Office: YAMANE was born in Shizuoka. She studied health management, planning and policy at graduate school in the UK after finishing undergraduate degree in Japan. Upon returning to Japan, she worked as a nurse, and joined AAR Japan in May 2013. She is currently in charge of the Tohoku and Zambia programs. “Through listening to the voices of persons with disabilities, I want to support them to make their dreams come true.”   
Japanese-English translation by Ms Satomi Tomishima
English editing by Mr Richard Whale

The article on this page has been translated by volunteers as part of the AAR Volunteer Programme. Their generous contributions allow us to spread our activities and ideas globally, through an ever-growing selection of our reports from the field.